Promoting Conservation Behavior in Shared Spaces: The Role of Energy Monitors

Journal of Environmental Systems 01/1990; 19(3):1-1. DOI: 10.2190/2N3T-WH89-B6WW-KVLH


Public university buildings are fascinating if somewhat complicated behavior settings. Designed and managed for a broad range of users, these buildings present a challenge to those trying to promote energy conservation. This is even more so when the goal is not a technology-based approach but conservation through direct involvement. This article discusses one type of participation - the use of energy monitors to promote campus sustainability. Volunteer staff members were given responsibility for monitoring lighting energy usage in the public and shared spaces near their offices. They were encouraged to promote energy conservation by shutting off unneeded lights and by informally discussing their activities with other building users. This relatively simple and direct approach proved effective in reducing energy waste.

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    • "For instance, Staats et al. (2004) found that when people worked with neighbors to discuss ways to reduce their energy consumption and trash generation, they were successful in achieving these goals. Likewise, De Young (1989-1990) found that when university staff members were given responsibility for monitoring their buildings' energy usage and promoting energy conservation (on a voluntary basis), energy use in their building areas declined substantially. Also, in a study of small-scale sustainability initiatives, Irvine and Kaplan (2001) found that individuals were willing to change their unsustainable behaviors if community members asked them to do so and explained the rationale. "
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose – The authors led an interdisciplinary team that developed recommendations for building a “culture of environmental sustainability” at the University of Michigan (UM), and the purpose of this paper is to provide guidance on how other institutions might promote pro-environmental behaviors on their campuses. Design/methodology/approach – The authors synthesize research on fostering environmental behavior, analyze how current campus sustainability efforts align with that research, and describe how they developed research-based recommendations to increase environmental sustainability on the UM campus. Findings – Analyses of prior research suggest that there are five factors that influence individuals' pro-environment behaviors: knowledge of issues; knowledge of procedures; social incentives; material incentives; and prompts/reminders. Given these factors, UM should pursue three types of activities to support the development of pro-environment behaviors: education, engagement, and assessment. Practical implications – The specific recommendations in this report are for the University of Michigan. However, other institutions interested in fostering a culture of environmental sustainability might benefit from undertaking similar comprehensive assessments of how they could support community members' development of pro-environment behavior and knowledge. Originality/value – The paper builds on prior research to offer a new vision for how to develop a culture of environmental sustainability on a large university campus.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2012 · International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
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    No preview · Article · Sep 2003 · Journal of Environmental Psychology